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Monday, February 10, 2014


Militarism is the prism that focuses this unsightly vision of our beloved republic languishing in its imperial prison. 

At the turn of the 19th and twentieth centuries, Mark Twain painted a picture of the militarist and corporatist prison in which our sovereignty languishes today when, in a futurist essay titled “Passage from ‘Outlines of History’”, he lamented with visionary precision and derision that (and here I quote that wise sage):

“it was impossible to save the Great Republic.  She was rotten to the heart.  Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.”

This vision of conquest abroad combined with apathy at home underscores the extent to which Twain conceived of American imperial militarism as a force that would, if it went unchecked, eventually strip away all of America’s celebrated liberties and spread tyranny both across the globe and at home.

In the 1930s, in the aftermath of the “Business Plot”, which was a purported plan advanced by fascist-minded US oligarchs and military veterans, to overthrow the U.S. government of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Major General Smedley Butler –who had been invited to conspire in this plot and lord over America as a dictator—not only denounced the conspirators but also dedicated himself to criticizing the imperial militarism of US corporations:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

1962.  Governments everywhere throughout Latin America continue to be powerless against the militarism born of collusion between of US multinational corporations and the Pentagon.  Salvador de Madariaga, a Spanish liberal who has been living in exile ever since Franco rose to power in Spain, has this to say on the subject:

“Today the United States wields more sovereignty over a number of Latin American nations than it does over some of its own capitalist enterprises.  These multinationals are strong enough to usurp the national sovereignty of the United States and force the State to serve their own private or restricted interests, alleging all the while that these are the interests of the nation.”

Always the same story:  The material interests of a number of American citizens prosper, and the moral authority of the United States declines.  Who are, then, the real patriots?

An impossibly dastardly question to pose.  An equally impossible question to answer.  So I will quote Mark Eitzel, who in 2004, after the US invasion of Iraq, spun it out this way:

You can see him fade with the dawn and a pile of washingtons

His head in a spin, he's happy to pass out again
He would rather fade into the static than hear the violins
That whine like old lovers who whine that they love him
He would rather laugh alone in the dark with the soft hands of heaven
Because they'd leave him alone with his entertainment system
He does it for the money but he gives more than he's given
He does it for the money but he gives more than he's given
And it's only when he's naked that he feels his heart
In the whorehouse desert of the patriot's heart
We all want a patriot's heart
We all want a patriot's heart

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